Monthly Archives: August, 2016

Encounters with a Stranger

As I sat at my desk going through my task list, I noticed an elderly woman approaching the office door. Was she coming inside? She is not a client. I went to the door to greet her and figure out who she was and what she needed. She saw a van parked outside our office just leave, and she thought that we were the business advertised on the van. I informed her that the company was only visiting our office to do some work and apologized.

As we were about to part ways, she told me she was having a tough time. She recently moved and she was struggling to get everything in order. She was hoping to catch the man in the van, or get some answers from his associates within, only to discover she wasn’t close to the place to find answers. Nonetheless, the Spirit gave me a nudge to help her out. Little did she know; the answers were online. She was led to share her struggles. I needed to listen to the voice telling me to slow down and pay attention. In no time at all, she had the answers in hand and it was time for her to leave. It was a simple encounter, and it was easy to help her. Five minutes. But she was so grateful and she left with a smile.

We often have these encounters with strangers. Do you consider why they are brought your way? Some people are in your path to help you grow. Some people are in your path for you to bless. Some people are in your path for you to shine the Light. Don’t trivialize evangelism. Don’t think sharing the Gospel is all about big demonstrations with fancy words. Small encounters with strangers, embracing and showing compassion—these encounters are precious. Do small things with great love and watch God move in mighty ways.

“And do everything with love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:14 [NLT]

Half Abiding

As I was preparing for a message on embracing God and embracing others, I considered the half hug. You all know the half hug. It is when you sort of hug someone, but do not truly hug the person. It’s a half hug. You have one arm around the person, but the other arm just dangles there. It’s like you almost embrace a person, but yet you don’t complete it. Some would even call this a fake hug.

I continued to be brought back to this half hug as I was preparing the message, and focusing on embracing God. Do we half hug God sometimes? Is that possible? Of course it is possible. Sadly, it is what most Christians do many times. Some compare this to having one foot in heaven and the rest of their body in the world. It’s when you are not all in when it comes to your walk with God. You believe in Jesus. You have been saved. Yet, you don’t have the close relationship that God always wanted since the creation of the earth.

When God created Adam and Eve, He walked with them. He wanted to have that kind of relationship with man. We all know sin damaged this relationship. But we also know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for a restoration of this relationship. The veil was torn. The Spirit was poured out upon believers. We can have that relationship again. The Bible tells us this truth. It’s awesome. Part of this relationship is described with the word abide. If we abide in Him, He abides in us. That sounds confusing but it’s simple. We abide (or remain) in Him, and He abides (remains) with us. How awesome?!? Understand there is no half abiding. The abiding is not to be a pick and choose type thing. You are either abiding or you are not abiding. Today, ask the Spirit to share with you where you currently are at, and if there is anything that is blocking your abiding in Him.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 [NLT]

 

Friendly Father

We never pray enough. I write and preach so often about prayer because the Spirit continues to show me that we never pray enough. I know I’m guilty of not praying enough. I consider Brother Lawrence and how he would talk to God during the day. It was so natural. Why do I, why do we, pray so unnaturally? Why do we get so caught up with trying to pray properly, instead of simply investing in our relationship with Jesus? Why do we find prayer awkward? Why do we push off prayer? It doesn’t make any sense.

The Bible tells us that God is our Father. He is the one and only Father. We can cry out to Him, “Abba Father,” just like Jesus. This is like crying out “Daddy.” But instead we put up walls. We don’t approach Him like a Father. Do we not see Him as a Father? Do we have “daddy issues” that keep us from understanding the role of a father?

The Bible also tells us that God is our friend. Our friend. Now that is hard to consider. A friend is someone you can talk to about anything. A friend is someone you can speak freely with and just have fun. You don’t hold back with your friends.

If you can grasp that God is your Father and God is your friend—that He is your friendly Father—then you are a ready for what is necessary for your relationship with God. To do life with God, you need to speak with your friendly Father. You need to open up to Him, to approach continually through the day, to include Him in your life. Speak to Him when you rise. Speak to Him as you brush your teeth. Speak to Him as you have your meal. Speak to Him as you drive your car. Speak to Him while at work. Speak freely. No need for “art” and “thou.” You can honor Him as holy as you speak freely. He wants your heart, not a fake and stuffy presentation. He wants a relationship with YOU. The real you. Pray today to your friendly Father.

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” – John 15:15 [NLT]

Scapegoat

Most people have heard the term “scapegoat.” Typically, we hear this word when referencing someone who took the fall for the team or someone who took the blame for something they weren’t even guilty of committing.  This term is rooted in Leviticus 16, when we read of the need for Aaron to present a live goat that would take on the sins of the people, and then go into the wilderness to symbolize the complete removal of the sins of the people.

There is argument over the term Azazel. Some people see this as being Satan. Others understand this term to mean “complete removal” or “entire removal.” No matter the possibilities, this action of laying of hands on the goat’s head for confession was seen as a transfer of the sins from the people to the goat. Driving the goat away from the people, into the wilderness, symbolized the removal of the sins of the people.

You may use this term “scapegoat” today to describe someone who carries the blame alone, despite their lack of guilt. This live goat that Aaron lay hands upon is a foreshadowing of Who would come to be the ultimate Scapegoat. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was free of sin. He was perfect. As He hung on the cross, it was as if Aaron lay hands on Him. The sins of all people were transferred to Jesus Christ. He bore it all. He died on the cross, killed like a criminal, and then He was sent away to remain in a tomb. But the story doesn’t end there. On the third day, He rose. Unlike the need for Aaron to continue to find scapegoats to purify the people, Jesus Christ was able to provide the complete removal of sins forever. There is no need for another scapegoat. Today, if you are convicted of sin in your life, turn to the one true Scapegoat, Jesus Christ, and repent of your sins. You will be forgiven.

“The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD…. When Aaron has finished purifying the Most Holy Place and the Tabernacle and the altar, he must present the live goat. He will lay both of his hands on the goat’s head and confess over it all the wickedness, rebellion, and sins of the people of Israel. In this way, he will transfer the people’s sins to the head of the goat. Then a man specially chosen for the task will drive the goat into the wilderness. As the goat goes into the wilderness, it will carry all the people’s sins upon itself into a desolate land.” – Leviticus 16:10, 20-22 [NLT]

Close Embrace

I was sleeping so well. All of the sudden my eyes were wide open. It was National Dog Day. But that wasn’t why Max woke me up. A storm with lightning and thunder was in our midst. Max was having an anxiety attack. My overweight dog was in big baby mode. I called him onto my bed and held him in a close embrace to calm him down. He has a special storm jacket or thunder jacket. I call it a storm trooper jacket because it’s the only way he is a good trooper through storms.

As I lay unable to sleep with my panicked canine, I considered the close embrace of our heavenly Father. When we embrace someone closely, eventually we let go. We start to feel hot. We want to change our position. We cannot spend all day in one place. We have things to do. Sometimes it is a challenge embracing anyone at all. But with God, it’s different. The embrace is never-ending. Forever, we are in safety with the close embrace of God.

God “takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13 NIV). The psalmist said that God covers us with His feathers, that under His wings we find refuge (Psalm 91:4). Today, consider the close embrace of God. Nothing can snatch you from His hand (John 10:28). Settle close to Him for refuge. Enjoy His presence. Appreciate the close embrace.

Leap Like a Deer

I am not too keen on waking up early for the Cross Country season. As I get older, I appreciate extra sleep. Even so, I love the drives to school for practice. I especially enjoy the moment alone when I’m driving the back road and witnessing all of the beauty around me. God never ceases to amaze me.

This morning, as I drove home, I looked before me and praised God for the beautiful farmland. I rejoiced in the amazing sunrise I was experiencing as I sang along to a praise song on the radio. Before I knew it, I was even more amazed. Three deer were prancing along. I slowed down the van as they crossed the road. They continued to leap through the corn field, and then they crossed the road again. For a moment, everything around me stopped. All the noise. All the busyness. All eyes focused on God’s creation doing the simplest of things—leaping along through the corn field.

I was reminded this morning of the great promise written in Isaiah, the promise that “the lame will leap like a deer.” God heals. God restores. God alone qualifies us. He is our strength. Praise Him and Him alone. Continue to press forward and tread on the heights He places before you. Leap like a deer today!

“The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights.” – Habakkuk 3:19a [NIV]

“The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland.” – Isaiah 35:6 [NLT]

Chisel Out

Remember how Aaron led the people to sin, while his brother Moses was up on the mountain with the Lord? Remember how Moses came down from the mountain and in anger, he smashed the tablets—“These tables were God’s work; the words on them were written by God Himself” (Exodus 32:16 NLT) God had called Moses to come on the mountain and remain so He could give him “the tablets of stone on which… inscribed the instruction and commands so (Moses could) teach the people” (Exodus 24:12).

When you read about the tablets, you will note that God provided the tablets. “When the LORD finished speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai, He gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, written by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18 NLT). Something changes. The people sin. The people surround Aaron and he asks for their gold to make a golden calf to worship.

Moses found out and broke the tablets and things are different. God tells Moses to chisel out the tablets. No longer does He provide the tablets. The Bible doesn’t say why God had Moses chisel out the tablets instead of providing the tablets like the first time. Many scholars believe it has something to do with repentance. Last time Moses was handed the tablets; this time the people would need to repent to receive tablets from the Lord. Today, consider what God is calling you to chisel out, how God is calling you to repentance.

“Then the LORD told Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. I will write on them the same words that were on the tablets you smashed.’” – Exodus 34:1 [NLT]

Bringing Sin Upon Them

I always get upset when I read Exodus 32, because as Moses is up on the mountain with the Lord, the people are again getting themselves in trouble. They surround Aaron and ask to make gods because they haven’t a clue what happened to Moses, the one who led them out of Egypt. Right after they approach Aaron, he immediately is asking for gold earrings. He doesn’t beat around the bush.

Aaron leads the people to sin. We see his immediate action is to answer their request and make a golden calf. He doesn’t stand up boldly for God. He doesn’t say, “Hey, let us wait for Moses.” He jumps right in headfirst. When Aaron’s sin is addressed, he is asked what the people did to him that caused him to “bring terrible sin upon” him. This leaves the door open for Aaron to confess to what he did. Instead, he points out “how evil these people are.”

In the case of Aaron, the people supplied the gold, but he fashioned the calf. When the people got excited, he built and altar and planned to worship the calf, just adding to the sin. When people sin, they are to blame for their actions. Even so, we never should be leading someone to sin. If we are bringing sin upon someone, we are guilty and in need of repentance.

“Aaron saw how excited the people were, so he built an altar in front of the calf. Then he announced, ‘Tomorrow will be a festival to the LORD!’ Finally, he turned to Aaron and demanded, ‘What did these people do to you to make you bring such terrible sin upon them?’ ‘Don’t get so upset, my lord,’ Aaron replied. ‘You yourself know how evil these people are.’” – Exodus 32:5, 21-22 [NLT]

Moved to Offer

There is a big difference from being told to give something compared to giving something from the heart. I am sure there were many times that I did not want to give someone something, but I was told to do so and obliged. It didn’t mean I wanted to actually do it. I cannot remember this, but I trust that it happened because I have seen the same thing with my children over the years.

When it comes to tithes and offerings, the same thing is true. There is a difference between someone giving because they are told to give, and someone actually wanting to give—actually delighting in the giving. Paul wrote, “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully’” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT). If the heart isn’t in the giving, the offering is made for the wrong reason.

Today, ask for the Spirit to reveal what is on your heart. Are you giving just to give? Are you giving because you desire to give? Are you giving so people see you giving? Are you moved to give? Is it a joy to give? Are you cheerfully giving? If you aren’t giving, ask why not? Thank God for His blessings and ask Him to reveal how He desires you to be a blessing.

“Tell the people of Israel to bring me their sacred offerings. Accept the contributions from all whose hearts are moved to offer them.” – Exodus 25:2 [NLT]

Sacred Chestpiece

Aaron had this sacred chestpiece that he had to have over his heart when he went into the Temple. This chestpiece was to remind him that he represented the people before the Lord. It was a sacred chestpiece. This was only one of many symbolic items we read about that we don’t follow today.

We no longer have a need to have someone wear a sacred chestpiece and go before the Lord to represent us. Because Jesus Christ died on the cross, the veil was torn. We no longer need a representative before the Lord. He fulfilled the Law. He is the Representative. He sits at the right hand of God. He intercedes on our behalf. The Spirit of God is poured out upon us so that even our groans can be understood.

Though nothing separates us from the love of God, we can allow our heart to keep us distanced (Romans 8:38-39). We can stifle the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We can neglect the blessing we have to come before the Lord. We can cling to our filthy rags, and not enjoy the opportunity we have to dwell in His presence. Today, consider the last time you approached the throne of God. Embrace this awesome opportunity.

“In this way, Aaron will carry the names of the tribes of Israel on the sacred chestpiece over his heart when he goes into the Holy Place. This will be a continual reminder that he represents the people when he comes before the LORD.” – Exodus 28:29 [NLT]